The answer lies in Mark 8.34. If we had truly wanted to follow Jesus, we would have had to deny ourselves, accept , and follow Jesus on his road: away from home, out among the needy, speaking truth to power, and sacrificing everything.
September 13, 2012
By Tom Ehrich
Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8.34)
After all this time — after two thousand years of Christian history, millions of sermons preached in millions of churches, countless study groups and institutional consortia, after the expenditure of billions in church budgets, the ordaining of clergy and canonizing of saints — you would expect the world to be a better place.
Progress, however, has come mainly from science, technology and philosophy. With some notable but rare exceptions, Christianity has been either an obstacle or a bystander. Our wars have stained the ground red; our arguments have sent seekers elsewhere.
Why is this? The answer lies in Mark 8.34. If we had truly wanted to follow Jesus, we would have had to deny ourselves, accept , and follow Jesus on his road: away from home, out among the needy, speaking truth to power, and sacrificing everything.
Instead, we have approached religion as one more avenue to meeting our needs and saving ourselves.
“Does this faith agree with my views and interests?” we ask, when we should be asking, “Have I given up everything for Jesus?”
“Do I like the new pews, the new pastor, the new music?” we ask, when we should be asking, “Shall we praise God together on our knees?”
“Am I getting what I want and meeting people I enjoy?” we ask, when we should be asking, “Am I doing your will, Lord? Am I standing in solidarity with people whom you chose for me?”
When Christianity becomes, for us, a path to self-fulfillment, carried out among like-minded people, bounded by traditions we savor and practices we favor, aimed at winning our loyalty, what could God possibly do with us?
When the Gospel is used to justify whatever we want justified, to win whatever battle we want waged, and to celebrate our tastes and wealth through handsome facilities and pleasing words, what have we to say to anyone?
Jesus made it quite clear what faith in him would mean. There’s no mistaking his call: serve with me, suffer with me, die with me. Until we try that call, the world is unlikely to get any better. That’s the long and short of it. Christianity has had little impact on the world, except for some handsome buildings and lovely art, because Christians haven’t yet, in most places, given Christianity a try.
I teach church development. But I recognize that better practices can only do so much. Our future as people of faith, our future as faith communities, and the future of our troubled world depend entirely on submission.
Will we continue to satisfy ourselves, or now, at long last, can we deny ourselves and follow Jesus on his road?